Immigrant disadvantage in the labour market: The role of attitudinal context

Josep Ubalde & Amado Alarcón
European Societies

There is ample evidence that immigrants are at a disadvantage in the labour market. Previous studies show that discrimination and devaluation are important factors in explaining why immigrants are occupationally segregated. Three kinds of discriminatory behaviours can be distinguished: aversions, cognitive biases, and erroneous attributions. The present article is part of the debate on the mechanisms that generate inequality and argues that the attitudinal context (social norm) influences labour market outcomes by moderating the impact of these three discriminatory behaviours. This idea is empirically examined in an analysis of the role of openness towards immigrants on the immigrant-native occupational status gap and in the comparative advantage of their language skills. Data from the Adult Education Survey is modelled together with contextual data from the European Social Survey using country fixed-effects regressions. The results indicate that immigrants are at a disadvantage, although the extent of this disadvantage varies significantly among countries partly due to the influence of openness towards immigrants.